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Assigning meaningful homework in elementary mathematics

Many teachers assign mathematics homework routinely without considering the potential learning the assignment provides. This resource will help teachers to consider alternative forms of homework. It might be productive for a mentor and new teacher to use this checklist to plan a week's worth of homework together.

Homework can reinforce or deepen understandings students develop during the school day. It can also offer parents a chance to see the kind of work their children are doing in school. However, simply assigning problems from the math book is unlikely to accomplish these goals. Below is a checklist of various forms of homework that require different sorts of engagement from students. Try using it to consider new homework possibilities:

Homework ideas

Could students make a game to practice the day's lesson?

  • Children can use index cards to adapt common games like concentration, go fish, and rummy for mathematics.
  • Children can also write questions onto board games like checkers.

Could children engage in some kind of scavenger hunt?

  • Newspapers and magazines are filled with numbers, charts and graphs.
  • The world is filled with geometric shapes and objects.
  • Children can bring in the objects themselves or draw pictures.

Could children write about what they learned?

  • Having children restate the day's big ideas gives you a chance to check for conceptual as well as procedural understanding.
  • Having children ask questions based on what they learned gives you a chance to connect lessons from day to day.

Could children choose from one of a few possible assignments?

  • You could offer two types of problems from the book or one traditional and one alternative assignment.
  • Children could have a folder of possible work and choose one piece to complete each night.

Could children practice algorithmic problems for a certain amount of time, rather than a certain number of problems?


Could children do one significant problem rather than a series of identical ones?


In an associated resource, you can read about one beginning teacher's exploration of challenging homework assignments.